X-Man #57

Issue Date: 
November 1999
Story Title: 
Behind the Curtain

Terry Kavanagh (writer), Mike Miller (penciler), Bud Larosa (inker), Mike Thomas (colorist), Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Troy Peteri (letterers), Jason Liebig (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Nate charges through the bunker on the island of purple-smoke volcanoes. There, he finds the Purple Man and accuses him of manipulating him once more, recalling the recent events of “Greyville”. Nate struggles with the Purple Man, and uses his power to bring the bunker down. In the process, the Puirple Man is killed. But Nate quickly realizes that it is not the Purple Man, but a stranger wearing face paint. This makes things worse, as Nate fears he has killed an innocent man. His powers express his worry, and take out some holo-mirrors and lights overhead, revealing the cast from “Greyville” as actors. Mysterio is the villain behind Nate’s plight, and he watches from the shadows, recalling how he decided he could use Nate to get to Spider-Man. Nate continues to grieve for the fact he is responsible for an innocent man’s death, and his powers cause the facility to catch on fire. The actors fear for their own lives, while Mysterio laughs, and Nate realizes someone is messing with his mind. The bunker floods, so Nate grabs the actress who resembles Threnody. They share a moment, before she vanishes, and Nate figures out that this is all an illusion, that he didn’t kill anyone. Mysterio reveals himself to Nate, and they battle through a series of illusions and mind control, with Mysterio believing that he has won, and that he can now take over the Earth. But in the process of the mind-entering, Nate was able to reverse Mysterio’s attack on him, and Mysterio is the one trapped in an illusion now. Nate realizes this means his telepathy has returned, and as he stumbles out of Mysterio’s warehouse, blood trickling from his nose and mouth, he collapses, unaware that Threnody - the real one who appears very pregnant - has found him.

Full Summary: 

This is their greatest fear. Those who know Nate Grey at all know that he is a stranger to this world, still, one of the few surviving refugees of a an Earth where mutants ruled supreme. Where power corrupted. Absolutely. And the power of this young mutant’s mind, the sizzling psychoactive energies at this lone boy’s command… are nothing less than limitless. And then some.

‘You’re toast, sucker!’ Nate roars as he flies through the air towards a bunker surrounded by volcanoes spewing purple smoke on an island he knows not where. Energy flickers around the young mutant hero. The air burns around him now, too. Oxygen molecules pop and crackle in protest, sparked by his rage. But the spits and hisses are swallowed by his roars - and his roars are left behind, lost to the speed of sound.

‘Still not sure where I am, really - or how I got here, exactly - and I can’t even imagine what you were hoping to gain from this whole “Greyville” illusion…’Nate shouts. And cashing through the side of the bunker at full fury, Nate shouts ‘But it’s over!’ and then declares that he knew it - he knew there was a reason this bunker was the only building left standing after the town fizzled out. ‘And I knew it was you, Killgrave! You’ve done this to me twice now, Purple Man - pumped me up, just to tear me down!’

Nate’ slams into the Purple Man who has a new appearance, and turns and looks up at him. ‘But your mutant pheromones are useless once I’m on to you, puppeteer, I proved that last dance…and payback’s a b-’ Nate adds, before the resulting collision causes a small explosion.

Nate’s thoughts drift back to “Greyville” and he tells the Purple Man that he loved the casting this time around, though - friends that really worked in their roles, at least for him - characters he could find a real connection to - Spider-Man, Madelyne and Threnody. Foes that made more sense than usual, believe it or not - Ecco and Violet. And family - Jean, Cable and Forge. Nate declares that there were little things along the way, though, weird inconsistencies that he was beginning to pick up on - right before the Purple Man did it again, taking it all away, destroying another life that Nate was just learning to love, killing Cable, Jean and Forge.

‘Just like New York…’ Nate declares as he gets to his feet when the smoke from his furious collision with the Purple Man starts to dissipate. Nate tells the Purple Man that he almost made him believe it was his fault again, too, until he finally started putting it all together a few minutes ago - the island of purple smoke, the woman called Violet, even “Sinister’s” strange colors.

Suddenly, ‘You don’t have a clue, Grey. As usual’ the Purple Man calls out as he grabs Nate from behind, wrapping his arms around Nate’s neck. ‘How? If I can’t trust me own senses in your presence again, Killgrave…if I still can’t be sure exactly where you really are…I’ll bring down the whole place!’ Nate threatens, using his power ot start to break apart the bunker. The Purple Man looks up, concerned, but too late, as the rubble slams down on top of him and Nate.

Nate bursts forth from the rubble seconds later, protected by his telekinetic force field, holding the motionless body of the Purple Man in his arms. ‘Dead. He gave me no choice in the end… there was no other way, really. Telekinetic shields protected me from the fallout, but Killgrave’s -’ Nate’s thoughts trail off, as he looks down at the body in his arms and realizes that it is not Killgrave. ‘The Purple’s just paint of some sort, and the face - now that I…’ Nate frowns and realizes that he killed a total stranger - a completely powerless man, as far as he can tell. Blood is splattered around the faux Purple Man’s face, as the haunting realization that this might have been an innocent man dawns on Nate.

The lights fade for a moment, revealing an even darker truth - a new reality. Hundreds of hovering holo-mirrors, projecting and reflecting a complex network of false images - a literal web of lies - within a huge glass dome somewhere on the ocean floor. ‘Actors!’ a voice booms out from nowhere and everywhere all at once. The effect is immediate, the performance commanding, while Nate gazes around at the holo-mirrors and lights shining over him.

‘You can’t live with them, Grey -’ a voice exclaims as Nate stands over the body of the faux Purple Man, while the actors from “Greyville” appear. ‘No…’ the woman playing Jean calls out. ‘Please, kid…’ the man who plays Cable declares. ‘Please don’t hurt us…’ the man playing Forge shouts. ‘And neither can I’ the voice that resonates around the room announces as a purple mist fills the air. But the player himself avoids the spotlight for the moment, from the wings of the stage, behind all this smoke and mirrors - Mysterio works his magic alone.

Once, he was merely Quentin Beck, stuntman and special effects expert. Now, shrouded in his own shadows, newly possessed of ancient secrets and arcane tricks known to very few alive today…the maniacal Master of Illusion is finally what he was always meant to be. Not what he appears. He raises his gold-glove covered hands into the air. His purple cape flows into the smoke. His green costume topped by the strange dome over his face. ‘I decide when the curtain comes down here, Grey! This is my show - mine - it’s been mine from the very beginning! From the second I first saw you…at a circus down South last week, you were clearly distracted, boy…lost in pleasant memories, if the stupid grin on your face was any indication’ Mysterio, still unknown to Nate, calls out from behind the smoke.

Flashback images, narrated by Mysterio:

‘I recognized you right away, of course - from your public rise and fall back in the Big Apple a few months ago - and I knew I could use your power. More accurately, I knew I could use you… to use your power for me’. He boasts that for one with his subtle skills, it was simple enough to delude Nate into aiming at imaginary monsters and murderers in “Greyville”, while actually hitting bank vaults and safes across the country.


Mysterio, still unrevealed to Nate, announces that “Greyville” was a fool’s paradise, literally. ‘My equipment built the sets, mutant, but you designed them. Your own hopes and dreams shaped the story, streamlined the script… as I directed’. He declares that it was a good run, true, covering far more than the production expenses just on opening night alone - but Nate couldn’t come though, he never really managed to give Mysterio want he was really trying to find - somewhere deep down inside of him, where everyone keeps what counts - Spider-Man’s so-called secret identity. ‘I want the name of the man beneath that mask. And none of them have pulled it off, so to speak, so far. Not a one of the Web-Slinger’s supposed friends have proven able to provide a single clue - what - what’s going on out there now?’ Mysterio calls out.

The actors from “Greyville” stare at Nate, who is crouched beside the body of the faux Purple Man. ‘Doesn’t matter… doesn’t make any difference what I thought…  why I thought it… I killed a harmless human being - murdered a man - by mistake!?’ Nate exclaims, flopping forward, anguish and fear explode from the broken boy in a torrent of psionic energies. The horror is unbearably real. And instantly, uncontrollably realized. The holo-mirrors toss and tumble in the psi-storm of emotions - and the world around Nate suffers. Greyville comes and goes again, like the fleeting dream that it was. The Age of Apocalypse lingers longer, a haunting memory of his dead birth world. Nate screams. Then, there is the Alaskan home of Scott Summers and Jean Grey Summers, teasing Nate with the promise of so much more. But all is lost to the pain - the only constant that remains. ‘I murdered a defenseless man! Maybe even an innocent man!’ Nate cries, clutching his head, his powers run wild throughout the room.

‘He’s falling apart!’ one of the actors calls out, as they look around at the energies destroying the room. ‘Totally!’ one of them agrees. ‘And taking the rest of the place with him!’ the actor playing “Spider-Man” shouts as the holo-mirrors start to catch fire, and fall towards the actors, who run.

‘I lost control… just like they all said I would, sooner or later…’ Nate utters, hanging his head while the holo-mirrors and lights crash around him. Mysterio’s laughter resonates around the room, ‘Not funny, boss!’ the actor playing “Forge” calls out, while the “Spider-Man” actor embraces “Violet”. ‘C’mon, big guy! Show’s over already! Let us out of this fishbowl - fast - before -’ the actor pleads.

Suddenly, Nate goes berserk: ‘Who -? Who’s behind all this? Who’s messing with my mind?’ he shouts. The dome above everyone starts to crack, and they all look up. ‘Uh-’ one of the actors utters, before the crack becomes a gaping hole as a torrent of water pours through, sweeping the actors about. ‘MY MIND!’ Nate shouts as he flies over and pulls the “Threnody” actress from the water, while the others bob about in the waves. ‘My mind!’ Nate calls out again. With just that, and nothing more, the world around them comes to a sudden, screeching halt.

He hovers over the water, carrying the “Threnody” actress. ‘My weapon’ Nate utters, frowning. And finally, it crumbles completely - everything and everyone instantly vanishes into the impossibly dark void - everyone except the woman in his arms. ‘Please, don’t - don’t let me go, Natey - not again’ the woman utters, touching Nate’s face. ‘You… you’re not…’ Nate begins, looking at the woman. ‘- Threnody -’ he concludes, when suddenly, she vanishes. ‘Unreal. Even the actors are all imaginary’ Nate declares. Surrounded by darkness now, he looks up and declares that he didn’t kill anyone here - not yet, at least.

Suddenly, purple smoke fills the area, and Mysterio appears - larger than life, holding Nate in his hand. ‘Bravo, Grey!’ he booms. ‘Your grasp on reality is far firmer than I gave you credit for, boy. And it made for a poignantly powerful last scene, to be sure…but the grand finale always falls to the one-and-only Mysterio!’ the villain announces.

‘Right’ Nate mutters as Mysterio wraps his hand around the young hero. Nate releases a surge of psychic energy and declares that he has been played too many times before, by too many mind-muckers to think it is going to be that easy - for either of them. The illusion of the large Mysterio vanishes, and Nate finds himself in a plain steel room, with gas seeping from some vents in the wall. He supposes that it must be a drug of some sort, screwing with his perceptions, opening him up to suggestion and the hardware does the rest, bringing the illusion to life. Nate admits that it confused him there for a while, no doubt about it, threw him totally off balance, actually. ‘But I’m used to that, believe me…I’ve learned to work around it!’ Nate exclaims as he bursts through the wall, to find himself surrounded by many Mysterios, the purple smoke dancing around their feet. ‘Your whole house of cards is coming down now, Mysterio. I’ll make sure of it. No lights - no cameras - no more action. Just you and me now, sucker, the real you…and the really, really mad me!’ Nate exclaims as he creates an explosion, which causes the other Mysterios to vanish, leaving the real one before Nate.

The real Mysterio grabs his long purple cape by its end and declares that if his powers were still tied solely to his paraphernalia, to the simple stage theatrics that were once his signature style, then such bravado might indeed be justified. The smoke rises around Mysterio who reveals that the last few months have made a new man of him, quite literally - a better man, if you will, He announces that he has mastered personal mind control and hypnosis techniques long thought lost to the ages, buried away from the rabble now for millennia. ‘In other words, amateur, I’m afraid it’s just - the beginning -’

But as Mysterio tries to cast another illusion, it doesn’t work. ‘YOU!’ Mysterio shouts as he finds Nate standing over him. ‘Like I said, Mystie. Been there - done - that’ Nate gasps, as he suddenly finds Mysterio has disappeared. ‘Gone. All gone, just like that. Nobody left! Nothing - no Earth - no oxygen’ Nate realizes as he starts floating through empty black space. But Mysterio laughs as he materializes before Nate, a giant in appearance, as Nate screams ‘NOOOOO!’ and is sucked into Mysterio’s dome.

‘As I was saying, youngster. What you see, in my case - is never, ever what you get…’ Mysterio utters, as Nate looks around, he sees blood, and supposes that he is supposed to be drowning in Mysterio’s own bloodstream. But he isn’t, he is not drowning - it is all faked - just a battle of wills between Mysterio and Nate. ‘I’m not even…’ Nate thinks to himself, closing his eyes, he re-opens them, and discovers himself in some sort of strange labyrinth with upside down stairs leading in all different directions. ‘Where?’ Nate asks, as Mysterio hovers nearby, laughing, he exclaims ‘Backstage, apparently, for the curtain call’. Perhaps this is my world as seen through your eyes? Or your world seen through mine? Either way, Grey, our dueling illusions of reality - are completely incompatible…’ Mysterio suggests.

‘Whatever. Come to psi-scapes, M…I’ve seen worse’ Nate calls out as he pushes through a wall and grabs the surprised Mysterio. ‘I’ve done worse’ Nate adds as he holds Mysterio by his cloak and faces the dome covering his head. ‘FOOL!’ Mysterio shouts, pointing out that this close in sustained eye-to-eye, so to speak, Nate will not be able to resist him. Nate tries to psionically pierce the dome, but finds himself unable to. ‘You cannot resist the forces at my command - you are mine!’ Mysterio booms as Nate collapses to the floor.

Mysterio appears to rise, taller than the building they are in, he smashes through the roof. ‘Your power is mine!’ Mysterio roars. ‘All the world is my stage now!’ he shouts, appear to hold the planet Earth between his hands. But, inside a warehouse, ‘Mine alone!’ Mysterio shouts, his regular size, smoking floating around his feet, he doesn’t realize he has been tricked. ‘Heroes will bow at my feet, begging for mercy! Men will build monuments in my name, women will worship me - by law - and the cursed Spider-Man’s face will hang on the wall of my throne room…’ he exclaims.

Nate holds himself up against a wall, blood trickling from his mouth. ‘Enjoy it while you can, lunatic… 'cause it’s all in your head’ Nate thinks to himself. ‘That direct channel you opened into my mind back there worked to well for your own good. It went both ways, sucker…and I instinctively turned out own trick around on you, without even thinking about it’ Nate tells himself, smiling. He knows that means two things - Mysterio is no threat to anyone anymore - he is effectively trapped here, in his own warehouse, living out an imaginary scenario that Nate scripted, because somehow, somewhere along the way - he recovered his telepathy.

Nate staggers from the warehouse, ‘With a vengeance…’ he utters, before more blood flows from his nose and mouth. He touches his face and sees his blood-covered glove. Nate then falls to the sidewalk. Shadows loom over him, ‘Finally…you and I got lots t’ catch up on, lover…’ a pregnant Threnody declares as she and a horde of zombies stand over Nate Grey….

Characters Involved: 






In “Greyville” memories:

Nate Grey / X-Man

Threnody, Madelyne Pryor, Spider-Man, Cable, Jean Grey & Forge, Sinister, Violet, Ecco

In flashback images:



Circus attendees

Written By: